Walks Around You

South Elmham Hall and The Saints Walk


South Elmham Hall dates back to the 13th Century and was built by the Bishops of Norwich, who held the South Elmham villages at Domesday as part of the Saxon estates. The hall and farm were acquired from Henry VIII in 1540 by Edward, Lord North. Restoration of the house and surrounding buildings began in the 1980s with many original features discovered. The 16th Century exterior, now a Grade 1 listed farmhouse, hides a medieval first-floor hall where the Bishops of Norwich held court for 400 years. Part of the hall dates back to 1270. 
The minster: these enigmatic ruins, located a short distance from the hall, have been claimed to be those of a minster church or cathedral of the Anglo-Saxon Bishops of Elmham, but the most likely explanation is that this was an episcopal chapel built for Herbert de Losinga, Bishop of Norwich (1091-1119). At both North and South Elmham he built special churches. These two churches have a similar plan with unusually large tower bases; a possibility is that there were chapels at first-floor level for the private devotions of the bishop. It was not in use as an independent church by the 14th Century, though some of the references to a chapel and cloister in the 14th Century manorial account rolls could refer to this site or to the complex at the hall, where there was another chapel. The medieval names imply the presence of a monastery and it is possible that Bishop Herbert Losinga established a cell of the Cathedral Priory of Norwich at South Elmham, as he did at his other Suffolk seat at Hoxne. Interestingly, there is a definite Middle Saxon site nearby, on top of the hill near South Elmham Hall. This could well be the site of the Middle Saxon bishopric of Elmham. The minster ruins consist of a flint rubble building aligned approximately east - west and is presumed to be a church. It consists of an eastern apse (not visible above ground, but revealed in excavations 1963/4), a nave and a western narthex or tower base. The 1963/64 excavations also revealed a Late Saxon (10th Century) tomb slab fragment built into the church, indicating that the building must have been later than this date. The ruins lie with a Roman ditch and bank enclosure surrounded by mature woodland of hornbeam, oak and ash. 

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